Alternate view on Middle East conflict finds support in SD

A growing movement among American Jews in support of a two-state resolution of the Isreali-Palestinian conflict has made its way to La Jolla.

The number of American Jews who support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel appears to be increasing, as new groups are organizing in opposition to the predominant player in American-Israeli relations, the powerful lobby known as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). One such group, known as Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, now has nearly 40 chapters nationwide. One of its newest chapters is located in San Diego, and its most recent meeting was held at a home in La Jolla Shores.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, also known as the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, was founded in 2002 out of Chicago and now consists of more than 25,000 members. The group's founding principles advocate the evacuation of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This and other positions directly contrast American foreign policy of the last several decades. That policy has been tremendously influenced by AIPAC, one of the most powerful political lobbyist groups in Washington.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom represents an alternative to the AIPAC view, according to Ed Sweed, who hosted the San Diego chapter's most recent meeting at his La Jolla home.

"What's interesting is that in La Jolla and all around San Diego, there are Jewish people who are fed up with AIPAC and the current stalemate over there," Sweed said. "We want to move things in a different direction while still supporting Israel."

While many Jews support AIPAC's position and current American foreign policy, the perception that support is unanimous is incorrect, Sweed said.

"It seems most people think the Jewish community is pretty monolithical in this issue and supports Israel and its policies and AIPAC," he said. "But a lot of us Jews are not at all happy with the foreign policy and how AIPAC behaves in Congress and what they support."

This opposing viewpoint favors ceding the disputed territories in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and establishing Jerusalem as an international city and the capital of both states. The viewpoint is widely unpopular in Israel, Sweed said.

"Israelis don't accept it," he said. "They think they should have all of Jerusalem, and some expansionist Jews would like all of the West Bank, also."

But Sweed and those in his group think such expansion is not in the long-term interest of Israel and its citizens.

"Many Jews think the long-term peace and safety of the Jewish people lie more in a humanitarian approach and less in a political and powerful approach," he said. "With weapons and things like Anthrax that can float over 30-foot walls, no one is really safe. Other Jewish organizations talk more harshly about Arabs and imposing a solution and so on, but we don't think imposing anything on anybody is going to work in the long term."

Sweed said his organization will work to organize and educate more Jews, with the goal of one day having a voice in Congress equal to AIPAC. But that will be a huge task.

"(AIPAC has) enormous influence," he said. "When bills are before Congress dealing with Israel, if Congress opposes a bill AIPAC wants, they have the ability to put tremendous pressure on that congressman in terms of cutting off funds, contacting people in their district and even finding someone to run against them."

But a shift in influence could possibly be een already in international politics. On Oct. 15, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke from the West Bank and advocated the creation of a Palestinian state. The same day, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted in a speech that he would consider relinquishing parts of East Jerusalem.

The next event for the San Diego chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom will be held Nov. 14 at 7 p.m., when national organization president and former Knesset member Marcia Freedman comes to San Diego. She will speak at the University of San Diego campus.

For more information about Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, visit www.btvshalom.org.

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